Audience of One.

Three years ago, around June 2014, I felt 6 little words stamped right on my heart by God.

“You have an audience of One.”

I even thought about writing a blog about what those words meant, but every time I began to write it, I would get distracted and never finish… A majority of this post was written 3 years ago, and looking back now, I think it’s because I hadn’t fully understood… and maybe I still don’t have a full understanding, but I feel like I understand well enough to put it into words.

So I’m going to try to tell you the story without sounding like a crazy person, which I’m sure many of you who have read my previous posts already assume I am one, so here goes nothing:

Around the 4th of July 2014, I texted my friend who I had worked on the Christmas play with the previous year, because after like 3 nights of staying up until 2am and saying “next year, we’re starting in July” I just wanted to check in and see if we were going to be doing the play again…

And she said “Uhh… no, I need a break.”

And I said “lol”

Fast forward 2 weeks, I had a message on my voicemail

“Hey Sam, when are you available to meet to talk about scripts for the Christmas play.” Bwahahaha…

So, after 2 weeks of looking, but not finding a script that was “Christmas- but not cliché,” we decided to take a story we loved and had considered for the previous year, and adapt it into a Christmas play…

The story is Max Lucado’s “You Are Special” and I’ll let you look up the full synopsis somewhere else, because someone who is better at summing up things than me wrote one somewhere. But basically, it’s a story of how a little wooden doll learned to drown out all the voices around him, except for the voice of the woodcarver who carved him, to find true peace, love, and acceptance.

Now if you think this is the moment I caught on to the “audience of One” message from June, you’d be wrong… because I didn’t make that connection until much later.

So, I got busy with writing and making schedules, and my friend handled a lot of the actual work: asking for things and getting things approved, because I’m shy and don’t do well with talking to people on the phone… And we both were thrown for crazy loops beginning around the end of August, all the way through to the night of the performance, but somehow we got everything done… and by “somehow” I mean by the grace of God… because there was literally no other way… I mean, the week before the performance, I was on crutches with pneumonia at the same time, we had no props painted and zero costumes made… #Miracle

Anyway, in November, I was at a ladies’ bible study/training and one of the ladies was asked to share some of her experience after serving in ministry, and for some reason I decided to record what she said on my phone… and do you know what words came out of her mouth?

“I’ve learned that I have an audience of One.”

Whoa! I remembered the words written on my own heart five months earlier and… then finished eating my bowl of congee…

I’m not a total dunce, I knew then that those words had significance… I just was worn down from months of being in a season of constant change and heartache… so I thought “well, my life isn’t really a show worth watching, so You should just change the channel or get a refund for Your ticket.”

It felt like the next month was on fast forward up until Christmas Eve… The night of the performance… I was excited and nervous and I’m pretty sure I had an ulcer and lost half of my hair. I was understandably going a little nuts so I decided to head down to the church 2 hours before anyone else was scheduled to get there. I needed quiet. I needed to be alone.

Since we were a few stars short for the costumes,  I was sitting at the soundboard and listening to worship music, cutting out these little fabric stars… except, I wasn’t. I mean, everyone who knows me, knows I’m not the craftiest person… so these weren’t stars… they were some sort of quadrilateral blobby things… and after the tenth star that had one point completely lobbed off by my unskilled, useless hand, I just stopped and said “Why can’t I do this simple little thing? It’s not like it’s even that hard. Any idiot should be able to handle this.”

And if you were wondering, this is the moment when I finally understood why we had chosen this play, and why God had written those words on my heart 6 months before… because in that moment, I felt like I had done my best, and it still wasn’t good enough. I felt like the fact that I couldn’t cut out stars, somehow made me… less…

In that moment, I had an honest, desperate desire to hear what God thought about me…  not what great plans He has for my future, or if He’s had time to think about cluing me in on winning lottery numbers … I just wanted to know if He thought I was as useless as I felt, surrounded by those 4-point star-things. And as clearly as I could hear the music playing on my phone, I heard God say  “I would never think that about you.”

And so I cried for while, and got back to cutting out stars… that looked a bit more like stars this time… at least they seemed to look ok from the stage… (You can watch the performance here… it’s just a cellphone recording, so you might need to turn the sound up)

And now it’s been years since then, and most days, I can’t even claim to be any less of a mess… but if I hadn’t fully grasped the fact that God is not only keeping an eye on me, but He’s cheering me on, I probably would not have made it through the trials of the last few years.

But God already saw my future, and He prepared my heart ahead of time, so that even when I’m limping along, I know that the only voice that is allowed to speak in to my life is His.

The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.

– John 10:27-28 AMP

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What Are The Chances?

God is so cute.

That’s a phrase the worship pastor at my church likes to use when God does something unexpected… and not seemingly in a good way, but in the end, it’s better than you first thought it was going to be.

I’m sure there’s a better way I could’ve written that last sentence, but I’m heavily medicated from having major surgery. So cut me some slack, yeah? Because I’m going to tell you an awesome story.

Remember that post… the one where I was yelling at God… yeah. That was fun. And probably pointless for anyone reading, but very therapeutic for me to write. Who knew 4 months after the post, and 8 months total of waiting… I would finally have a praise report about my stupid, dumb, deteriorating ankle.

But I do.

Because I did not want this doctor. I wanted my doctor that I’d had for the past 11 years to do my surgery. Not someone new who I didn’t know and didn’t care how highly recommended he came.

But apparently- this doctor is one of the top in the world for this procedure. And you know what? He said my surgery was the best he’s ever done and he’s the most excited about my recovery than he’s ever been. And he wasn’t just saying that…

Because I apparently not only had a deteriorating ankle bone, but it also is deformed (go figure) in that it has a very odd (unique, maybe) shape…

And two months ago, when they called and said they had a donor, only to call back 20 minutes later to tell me it wasn’t viable, turned out to be a good thing, even though I was upset at the time…

Because the donor bone I got, had the exact same deformation in the bone, and fit perfectly, kind of like Cinderella, but more gross and kinda creepy if I think about it too much (but I am very grateful for the donor and hope to reach out to the family if that can be done with a bone… it’s not really the same as an organ… but just as life changing for me).

And I can’t stop asking myself, what are the chances?

There is no way for all this mess to come together in the end, and have an outcome far exceeding any expectation I ever had.

There are so many unexplainable things in my life. Things that are just too good to be true, and too good for me to have even imagined. I know there are probably some who would look into my life and still see all the mess… but for me, I’m choosing to see the blessings and praise Him while I’m waiting for the rest to catch up to the promises He’s already declared over my life.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters –Romans 8:28-29

Scars.

For a girl who has had 8 surgeries in the past 9 years, I’ve accumulated a few scars.

I’m not  one of those people who are like “scars are beautiful and are the marks of survivors” blah…

They’re hideous and I wish I didn’t have them, but when I look at them, I am reminded that I’m not hurt or broken anymore. That pain is a part of my past that I no longer have to live with, and I’m thankful I get to just move on.

With Easter approaching, I started to think about Jesus’ scars. His scars mean more to me than any of the ones that mark my own body. The scars on Jesus’ body are kind of like a receipt of the transaction that occurred on the cross. His life paid for our sins. In an uneven exchange, we gave Him our worst, and God gave us His best.

As someone who is very logical, it was really hard for me to believe in Jesus… But then I encountered God in a way that left no room for a single doubt in my mind.

Kind of like Thomas… (some of  you may know him as “Doubting Thomas.”)

In John 20, he’s the one who was all “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Psh! Oh ye of little faith, Thomas! Shun the nonbeliever… shuuuuuunnnn

Oh… but that didn’t happen.  (Also, side note about Thomas: He might have doubted that Jesus was resurrected, but he was the first one to be ride or die for Jesus. Check out John 11:16 “Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” BOOM)

Instead, Jesus said, ““Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” So Thomas did and was all like “It really is You!”

First. Gross.

Second, Jesus didn’t want Thomas to remain unbelieving. He wasn’t offended by his skepticism. Jesus was happy to reveal Himself to Thomas, and gave him the proof he needed to believe. That’s what I love about God. He isn’t afraid of our questions or doubts, and He’s willing to reveal Himself to us when we need Him to.

One of my favorite Bethany Dillon songs is called “The Way I Come To You” and the bridge goes:

“You loved me when I was Your enemy, and You chose me when I didn’t believe.”

I love that line… because I wasn’t always so sure about Him, but God always knew and loved me.  And He has the scars to prove it.

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fit.

It’s that time of year again (it’s still January, right?), when we all look at our lives and get real about where we’re at. The gyms are filling up and the amount of sugar being consumed is going down. Last year, I decided that I wasn’t going to look at all the bad habits I needed to change, but rather would look at my good qualities and do what I could with them. I don’t know if that was a better way to go or not, because it’s always harder to think of our own good qualities (unless you have narcissistic tendencies). In fact, we did an exercise in one of my Bible studies, where we had to go around the room and name one good thing about someone else, one thing we’d like to change about ourselves, and one positive thing we see in ourselves already. The first two were easy and we went around the room in under 3 minutes. The last one took us about 15 minutes for everyone to say something. I don’t know if it’s a learned skill in our culture, that we can’t say nice things about ourselves. Maybe we think we look like we’re bragging or something. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to see good things in yourself, as long as they don’t keep you from examining areas where you need a little more work.

Anyway, I would say overall, the good outweighed the bad this past year. There were days when I woke up and wondered how it was that I was so blessed. There were days when I had to drag my butt out of bed. But lately, I’ve been feeling just a little bit off. For a while, I thought I was just in a bad mood or hormonal. I would look at things in my life and just feel… dissatisfied. Maybe someone would look at my situation and just say “first world problems” and roll their eyes. For a long time I thought I was just being ungrateful or uppity. Sometimes I would just tell myself that I was being tested by God, and that it would all go away if I just stuck it out… but I don’t think that’s what’s happening anymore… I think I just don’t fit into my life anymore.

That sounds weird, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I can fake a smile and pretend like I’m enjoying myself in the same surroundings with the same people I’ve known for years, but not for very long, and not without going home and nearly having a break down. Even when I’m with my family, I feel like I’m somehow on the outside. Not that I’m being excluded… just that I don’t really fit there anymore, either. I don’t understand how I can feel like this, even with my own family… but I do.

I think that because I made the decision to change my heart this year, rather than my habits or my body I outgrew the life that I had been living. The past 5 years have been a huge leap in my spiritual growth. I went from a crawl to a full-on sprint in my walk with God in a very short amount of time, and for the most part have kept that pace. I don’t feel like I’m tired… I just feel like I’m not going anywhere. Like I’m wasting time and energy on something that doesn’t change.

Nothing ever changes.

But I need more.

If God has promised me a hope and a future, and has plans for me beyond just plugging holes in the sinking ship I feel my life is becoming… I need more.

So how am I going to fix it?

I don’t know… but maybe I don’t need to know.

Stick with me.

When Abraham was still Abram, God called him to “go to the place I will show you (Gen 12:1).” God gave him such a big promise, to make him the father of many nations, if he would just start walking. I like this story for two reasons. 1: It reminds me that I don’t have to fully understand what God is doing in order to be fully obedient. And 2. that God reveals Himself when we are actively walking with Him, not standing around looking around for something to happen. Maybe I’m completely missing what He’s trying to show me… Maybe I feel like I’m walking in circles because a wall like the one around Jericho needs to come down around my heart. Maybe I’m on lap six, and I’ve just got one more to go before something happens… until I’m no longer a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

Ultimately, that’s what it means to have hope, to believe that what you are doing today will make a difference tomorrow. As Christians, we talk a lot about faith, but not so much about hope. I think sometimes we think if we have hope for something down the line, it means that we don’t have faith for today… but in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 the Bible says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So whether you are hoping to fit into a new, smaller pair of jeans, or you’re like me, and trying to figure out where the heck you fit into your life anymore… don’t lose hope. Keep walking (both figuratively and on the treadmill). Lap 6 might be where you get tired, but Lap 7 is where God hands you the victory.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. –Galatians 6:9

Line In A Song

“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity”

We sing this in church every few weeks when Hosanna makes the rounds in the worship run. It sounds really nice, and it’s probably my favorite worship song, but what does that really count for? How can I takes these lyrics and turn them into a lifestyle? What does it look like when a line in a song becomes a way of life?

Our society is getting more and more selfish. We don’t like to watch the news because other people’s problems depress us. It’s not that they move us into action, they just make us feel sad, so we choose to ignore them. But at the same time, people get into political activism over trees. One of my favorite CCM Artists, Jimmy Needham has a song that says “The city closed the shelter down the street, we’d rather pay to save a tree than give our brother something warm to eat.” How sad is that? In Seattle, we are no longer allowed to feed the homeless out in the community. Apparently many people subscribe the to “you feed’em they’ll flock” school of thought. No one cares about the well being of our fellow man, just the unsightly inconvenience that they bring to the neighborhood.

Last week, while I was watching Glenn Beck’s radio program, I was crying over this story out of Rose City, Michigan. If it wasn’t enough that their son was molested by a teacher at age 13, the mom now has cancer and it is spreading, and they have been the victims of violence because they want the teachers who are standing by this sicko to be fired. Not only that, but the CHURCH posted bail for this guy. I am so heartbroken over this, which I guess is a good thing, because I have been driven to my knees in prayer.

Loving people and doing good always costs something. Sometimes it’s money to help out someone in need or buying lunch for someone. Other times we pay in time, like volunteering or even taking the time to pray for people. Love is a sacrifice, but I truly believe that the cost is not an issue when the price has already been paid. Jesus paid the ultimate price for us to live free from condemnation, worry, fear, doubt, sadness, even from our past… He has redeemed us and he can redeem all aspects of our lives. That is what love looks like, that’s the kind of love that can move mountains.

So what’s the point? We need to keep watching, even when it’s painful to see or hear. We need to love one another, whether we feel like it or not. We need to do what we can, even if it’s inconvenient. We need to keep going, even when we are tired and discouraged. Why? Because if we really want to live out the songs we sing every week in church, it’s going to mean that our lives are no longer about doing what we want, but they are about doing what is right.

When I started writing this, I had thought about weaving in lines from different songs that have moved my heart, but maybe I’ll just ask you to think about a song that has moved yours. Think about it, and then act on it, and maybe little by little, the light we shine will save the world.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16